"HAUS DES EIGENSINNS" - THE MUSEUM OF MADDENING BEAUTY

 

The Concept


The essence of the museum:
A permanent exhibition known as the "Prinzhorn Collection" of works of art by institutionalized artists viewed as creators of "degenerate art" by the Nazis. The historical context is Berlin before 1948.


The Location:

In the Tiergartenstrasse 4 (opposite the Berlin Philharmonic Hall), where the Nazisí euthanasia program was headquartered. The museum should first and foremost symbolize the victory of humanitarianism over Nazi concepts of "degenerated" ("entartet") art.The accompanying architectural plan symbolizes an ring around the imaginary villa of the "Aktion T4", a fantastic circular thought transformer with 1080 m² of floorspace.

The concept's context:
The "Prinzhorn Collection" should be handed over to the "Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener"
(In 1998 the "Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener" was the name of a National Association of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Germany. However since 2004 their critical role was taken over by the "Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Psychiatrie-Erfahrener": www.die-bpe.de because the Bundesverband chose to become a compliance club with the psychiatric establishment even co-operating with psychiatric genetic doctors and adopting rules for psychiatric electroschocking as demanded by the German psychiatrists organization.) -, which would become its rightful custodian (the ownership still remains with the artists). At the time of the handover from the Heidelberg Psychiatry Department, the BPE should sign a binding agreement to preserve this collection in its entirety and to exhibit it permanently in Berlin.The "Haus des Eigensinns" should establish a close working relationship with the memorial sites "Topographie des Terrors" and the "Haus der Wannseekonferenz". It should be understood as a meaningful addition to these memorials.It is a project meant for visitors who would be "intellectual witnesses" (the term first used by Geoffrey Hartmann, Yale University), second degree witnesses, who experience history indirectly.

Additional facilities:
an open foyer of ca. 500 m² (ca. 5,000 sq. ft.) with

  • documents of the "Aktion T4"
  • a cafeteria, catering for conferences
  • a library and a bookshop

in the vicinity of the memorial: an art gallery with the latest works by psychiatric survivors, among others:

- "Blaumeier Atelier" (Bremen)
- "Gruppe Durchblick" (Leipzig)
- "Gruppe Navratil" (Vienna)

The financing:
Because a donation of 1,75 million DM to cover half the construction cost has already been made, the same sum should be financed by the government in accordance with the construction bid for completion already accepted. Since the same amount has already been appropriated in the federal state budget for the renovation of the neurology lecture-room of the Department of Psychiatry of the Heidelberg University to be converted into a "Prinzhorn Museum", the federal state of Berlin would only have to release the plot of land and grant the necessary building permit. The "Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz" should be co-operatively involved with the professional exhibition and conservation. The decisions regarding what form and shape the exhibition and representation should take, must be left to the "BPE" or its Berlin branch.




Aktion T4: 1939 - 1945

"Tiergartenstrasse 4 - In honour of the forgotten victims.

The first mass-murder by the Nazis was organised from 1940 onwards on this spot, the Tiergartenstraße 4 and named "Aktion T4" after this address.

From 1939 to 1945 almost 200,000 helpless people were killed. They were deemed "unfit to live", their murder called "euthanasia". They died in the gas chambers of Grafeneck, Brandenburg, Hartheim, Pirna, Bernburg and Hadamar. They died by execution squad, by planned hunger and poisoning.

The perpetrators were scientists, doctors, nurses, justice officials, the police and the health and workersí administration. The victims were poor, desperate, rebellious or in need of help. They came from psychiatric clinics and childrenís hospitals, from old age homes and welfare institutions, from military hospitals and internment camps.
The number of victims is huge, the number of offenders who were sentenced, small."

Inscription on the T4 commemorative tablet.

The Prinzhorn Collection: testimony of fantastic beauty.
In the Prinzhorn Collection is a display of 6,000 sketches, aquarelles, texts and statues made by psychiatrically institutionalized persons from all regions of the German-speaking countries from 1880 to 1933. This collection became widely known through the publishing in 1922 of the book: "Paintings by the mentally disordered". Avant-garde artists were inspired by these authentic creations. For example, the expressionist Paul Klee in his search for the "origins of art" made a discovery here. The Nazis used this connection to interpret modern art as being just as "degenerate" ("entartet") as the people in psychiatric institutions.


Memorial and museum on the spot where the crimes originated.
Up until this very day this historic testimony to the creativity of the socially stigmatised still lies in the cellar of the psychiatric clinic of the University of Heidelberg - although the university never rightfully acquired these works of art. To construct a museum at this particular address in the Tiergartenstraße 4 in order to display this collection would signal public acknowledgement of and be a memorial for the first victims of systematic mass murder in Germany.
The exhibition would be supplemented by a sales gallery for the latest works by artists now or at one time under treatment, as well as a library, a bookshop and a café.


This is how an idea becomes reality.

  • An architectural draft already exists for the building.
  • A donation for this purpose has already been promised.
  • An association of supporting members would handle all matters concerning the establishment of the museum.
  • The museum will be managed exclusively by people from the federal and Berlin state psychiatric self-help organisations.


This museum would symbolize that thinking in terms of "normal" and "degenerate" ("entartet") should be rejected.

Members of the association in support of the museum "Haus des Eigensinns":

 
 

Dorothea Buck

 
 

Prof. Henry Friedlander

 

Dr. Ram Ishay

 

Bischof Prof. Wolfgang Huber

 

Prof. Dr. Walter Jens

 
 

Prof. Dr. Horst-Eberhardt Richter

 

Dr. Ellis Huber

 
 

Prof. Dr. Dieter Sengling

 
 

Dr. Norbert Kampe

 
 

Prof. Dr. Peter Raue

 

In co-operation with the sociological institute of the "Freien Universität Berlin"


Architecture and Artwork


The following citations are from the book

"The origins of Nazi Genocide.
From euthanasiea to the final solution"
by Herny Friedlander

University of North Carolina Press

They are the reasons for claiming the works of art collected in the so-called "Prinzhorn Collection" from the Psychiatry Department of the Heidelberg University, which took possession of them illegally through its participation in the euthanasia program and has never acquired legal title to this art.An institution which was deeply involved in mass-murder should never be allowed to keep possession of the art looted from its victims.


Page XIV:

I have examined the ideological setting for genocide in the first chapter, attempting to show how belief in the inequality of man produced theories that pointed to the inferiority, degeneracy, and criminality of the handicapped and of members of different races. Antisemitism was one aspect of that ideology of inequality...

Page XII:

My interest was different. It was not my aim to write about German medicine; I wanted to understand the crimes of the Nazi regime. By the mid-1980s, my reading of the documents had convinced me that the euthanasia program had been intimately connected to Nazi genocide. I realized that the ideology, the decision-making process, the personnel, and the killing technique tied euthanasia to the "final solution."...
Heredity determined the slection of the victims. I was thus forced to define Nazi genocide - what is now commonly called the Holocaust - as the mass murder of human beings because they belonged to a biologically defined group.

Page XIII:

Biology also determined the fate of the handicapped, who, just as Jews and Gypsies, could not change their condition to escape death. The Nazis killed handicapped infants in hospital wards as well as elderly men and women in nursing homes. I realized that the Nazi regime systematically murdered only three groups of human beings: the handicapped, jews, and Gypsies.

Page XI:

Nor were these patients murdered to free hospital space or to save money; the killers were motivated by an ideological obsession to create a homogeneous and robust nation based on race. They wanted to purge the handicapped from the national gene pool.

Page 125:

Paul Nitsche's comments concerning the role played by psychiatry, which could also apply to anthropology and genetics, make scientific participation abundantly clear: "As a rule, outsiders have not been able to appreciate how especially psychiatry rendered a fundamental service when its scientific findings revealed the gravity of the danger posed by degeneration [Entartung]; in this way psychiatry encouraged us to perceive the danger and the need for a defense, and thus it provided the basis for effective countermeasures."

Page 127:

When the radical solution of euthanasia replaced the slower method of mass sterilization,
science stood ready to lead and profit from this program. (See table 6.4.) From the beginning, researchers participated in the killings."' As we have seen, senior psychiatrists directed the T4 Medical Office and served as experts evaluating handicapped patients.
...

When the euthanasia program began, scientists associated with T4 decided that researchers should capitalize on the opportunities afforded by the killing program. Two research institutes
took the lead in exploiting the euthanasia killings: the Clinic for Psychiatry and Neurology of Heidelberg University, directed by Professor Carl Schneider, and the observation ward and research station at the state hospital in Brandenburg-Görden, headed by Hans Heinze.

Page 129:

The brain was in greatest demand. Julius Hallervorden, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, who collaborated with the Görden research station, and Professor Carl Schneider, who launched ambitious research projects at his Heidelberg clinic, were most prominent in this final violation of the victims.

Page 130/131:

An even more ambitious project to subject euthanasia victims to dubious medical research was launched by Carl Schneider at
the Clinic for Psychiatry and Neurology of Heidelberg University. Schneider was considered T4's senior researcher, and his clinic was thought to be the leading research center associated with the euthanasia killing program. Thus Schneider influenced developments at Görden

...

Supported by a research grant from T4 and the RMdI, Schneider also established special wards where subjects could be observed and tested. Furthermore, he obtained, in addition to his chief physician, Konrad Zucker, the temporary services of Drs. Deussen, Rauch, Schmieder, Schmorl, Suckow, and Wendt.

...

Another research station was established at the Eichberg hospital, which already had a children's killing ward. In May 1942, discussions led to an agreement that Eichberg would host one ward each for males and females to "observe, test and treat" subjects.

...

Eichberg's ability to provide brains for research at Heidelberg was of special importance. The Reich Committee transferred children from various hospitals, some as far away as Hamburg-Langenhorn, to the Eichberg hospital. There they were observed, killed, and dissected, and their brains were sent to Heidelberg. Eichberg continued as a research station even after Wiesloch had closed, despite the fact that its facilities were also unsatisfactory. At any rate, Schneider continued his research at the Heidelberg clinic.

...

Late in 1942, he urgently requested from T4 a list of Idiotenanstalten, that is, institutions that held retarded patients. In the summer of 1943, he urged Paul Nitsche to transfer every month ten to twelve retarded patients (Idioten) to Heidelberg. Wherever he traveled, Schneider looked for suitable research subjects. After one trip, he informed Nitsche: "We have found many wonderful idiots [schöne Idioten] in Hirth's Alsatian institution in Strasbourg. Transfer requests will follow."

Page 295:

We have now seen, again and again, the linkage between the killing operations against the handicapped, Jews, and Gypsies. Interpretations about the three operations have changed over the years. At the time, the murder of the handicapped led to public opposition, while the murder of jews, and even more so Gypsies, failed to produce public opposition. Since the war, however, public interest has focused on the murder of jews, while the murder of the handicapped and Gypsies has received little attention until recently. But one cannot explain any one of these Nazi killing operations without explaining the others. Together they represented Nazi genocide.The linkage between the three killing operations was, as we have seen, ideological, based on the belief in human inequality and on the determination to cleanse the gene pool of the German nation.


Ernst Klee:

Killing by starvation in the institutions
and other previous crimes of psychiatry

Speech on 6.8.´99



If you wish to support this project, please contact the Office of the Initiative at:

Buero "Haus des Eigensinns", Vorbergstrasse 9a, 10823 Berlin, Germany.
Tel. ++49-30-787 43 34, Fax: ++49-30-782 89 47

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